'Goodness prevails' as Swiss Cottage Deliveroo 'dark kitchens' rejected

Peter Symonds and Edie Raff welcome rejection of Deliveroo in Swiss Cottage after "four years hard slog"

Peter Symonds and Edie Raff welcome rejection of Deliveroo in Swiss Cottage after "four years hard slog" - Credit: Nathalie Raffray

Update: Deliveroo to keep 'dark kitchens' open as appeal launched

There was jubilation in the council chamber as councillors rejected so called Deliveroo "dark kitchens" in Swiss Cottage.

The Deliveroo Editions operation, in Finchley Road, applied for permanent commercial kitchens and delivery centre with extract ducts, flues, air conditioners and vents.

However, after hearing how riders weave across five lanes of traffic to deliver food to customers and more than 1,800 alleged breaches of conditions in nine months, Camden's planning committee voted to reject the application, which had been recommended by officers for approval.

Cyclists and e-scooter leave the Deliveroo site in Swiss Cottage. Picture: Polly Hancock

Cyclists and e-scooter leave the Deliveroo site in Swiss Cottage. Picture: Polly Hancock - Credit: Archant

The delivery operator was running kitchens without permission for two years until Camden Council took enforcement action.

The company appealed and in 2019 the case was considered by planning inspector Diane Lewis, who awarded a 14 month temporary planning permission. 

It was then awarded a further nine-month period of temporary permission by Camden Council.

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Edie Raff, who lives near the site, told the meeting Deliveroo had "failed to comply with conditions" for more than three years.

She added: "The cooking smells from the kitchen continue to invade our homes, gardens and terraces; riders continue to run red lights, cut across the A41, cycle the wrong way up highways, scare the life out of pedestrians and spread out everywhere while they wait for orders."

Cllr Leo Cassarani (Lab, Swiss Cottage) urged the committee to reject the application.

"Deliveroo was given one last chance by the planning committee and guess what: nothing has changed," he said.

Residents submitted objections documenting 1,822 alleged breaches of conditions over a period of nine months. 

"If you were to approve this you would be signing off Deliveroo sitting back and letting their riders run riot while the profits run in."

Deliveroo Editions Kitchen in Swiss Cottage. Picture: Polly Hancock

Deliveroo Editions Kitchen in Swiss Cottage. Picture: Polly Hancock - Credit: Archant

David Ives, property director at Deliveroo, told the meeting that he was proud of the kitchens that "directly affect the local economy".

He said the site supports 114 jobs, 77 of which are local people living in Camden, on top of 230 riders who live in the borough and made deliveries from the site over the past year.

An independent report detailed 14.2m in direct revenue, of which "8.7m remains with Camden, and £20,000 in business rates.

He said since the site opened in 2017, the company had "listened carefully to concerns made by our neighbours and the council" and "transformed" operations. 

It had two marshals operating the site when it was open and a "strict code of conduct for riders" about noise, behaviour and congregation.

Mr Ives said an independent highway assessment of riders at the site was carried out.

"The number of rider breaches were 0.06%," he said. "This is clear irrefutable evidence that our OMP (operational management plan) is working in the way the planning inspectorate intended."

Committee councillors had a range of questions regarding riders safety and resident concerns. 

The red line indicates Deliveroo bike riders cutting across five lanes of traffic in Swiss Cottage

The red line indicates Deliveroo bike riders cutting across five lanes of traffic in Swiss Cottage - Credit: Camden Council

Cllr Andrew Parkinson (Con, Frognal and Fitzjohn's) asked about a left-hand turn riders were taking to take a route south.

He said the residents' 1,800 breach figures matched what he sees when he goes past, that it is "chaos and dangerously unsafe".

He spoke of riders "weaving in and out of the traffic".

Richard Limbrick, Camden's planning applications team manager, said it was a "concern" but the issue was whether "it's significant enough to outweigh the benefits".

He said there was "no casualty data".

Transport planner Stephen Burke said the latest Highway Code "put the added responsibility onto drivers".

"If cyclists cross those lanes they are not in breach of the Highway Code," he said.

"I appreciate it could be done dangerously or safe but that's not something we can actually control".

Councillors asked whether riders had to meet targets and Deliveroo said "no". 

Cllr Sian Berry (Green, Highgate) said councillors were taking into consideration the employment opportunities, but asked what sanctions there could be against the company for future breaches.

The council's planning team said reviews would be "covered by the applicant".

The application received three votes in favour, six against and two abstentions.

Following the meeting, Peter Symonds, former chair of the Combined Residents Association of South Hampstead (CRASH), said: "We were terrified we were going to lose. It's really good news."

Edie Raff said: "I'm stunned, it's just marvellous. It's been four years of hard slog. Goodness has prevailed."